When developing a direct mail campaign, choosing the right paper stock is an important decision. It’s no exaggeration to say the right paper choice can make-or-break the campaign.
Paper options abound far beyond weight, color or finish. Just like the saying, “There’s an App for That,” there’s a paper stock with nearly any characteristic you can image. I’m serious. There are transparent paper stocks or those that feel wet. There are even paper stocks embedded with seeds you can plant. Many of the more inventive options aren’t suited for a high-volume direct mail campaign, but you get a sense for the vast range of choices.
When we consult on paper stock we typically evaluate and consider the marketer’s brand, component design and the budget:
Brand and Design
Choose a stock that best represents your brand/offer… and be realistic. If you’re selling a high-end product or service, a quality paper stock is in order. In other cases a lighter weight stock will be suitable. If you’re selling to prospects that are environmentally conscious, recycled paper or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper is a must.
We also factor in the type of artwork. A great design can really fall flat with a lower quality stock. If it’s a paint job with 100% ink coverage a bright white sheet is unnecessary.
Paper is usually the largest single expense in a printed component. It also has the greatest range in price/quality options. It’s important to leverage your supplier’s buying power. They can often direct you to house brands (with similar paper characteristics) that are more cost efficient than branded papers.
Tonnage, or yield, is another way of reducing paper costs. For example, if it won’t hurt your design or intended message you can reduce costs by dropping from a 70# stock to 60# for items such as a letter or form. Remember that volume commitments will drive lower material (and manufacturing) costs. Print manufacturers will be able to provide greater incentives (and greater value to you) for high volume programs.
Finally, another option is to supply your own paper to the print manufacturer. HOWEVER, keep in mind the risks associated with this choice. Defective paper could result in down-time charges or stock delivery delays. Change management now becomes the buyer’s responsibility (yours!) and can add new headaches and costs. Consider the risk/reward before making this commitment.
If you have additional questions about choosing paper stocks, please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.
– Mike Ertel
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